by Tameka Oliver
Dysfunctional is the story of Tamara Brown from her early teen years through her early twenties. She gets a diary for her fourteenth birthday so the reader is able to follow her exploits. This includes more than dysfunction. I believe Tamara is psychotic. This drama-filled book has calculated revenge that includes murder and abuse to which Tamara doesn’t bat an eye. When I first started reading this book, I didn’t like it at all. Tamara’s diary entries seemed a little too mature at first to me. Then it did begin to sound like the ramblings of someone much younger. I didn’t like the narrative when it wasn’t Tamara’s diary entry. I think it would have flowed much better if the entire book was diary entries or entirely narrative with sparse diary. I say this because the narrative wasn’t in third person all the way through. Sometimes it sounded like Tamara telling those parts. Then there were several parts that had nothing to do with Tamara. For example, there is a large section about her aunt Alexis and her dealing with a pregnancy and conflict with her boyfriend. This did not directly impact Tamara and did not further the story at all. Another section dealt with a disturbing attack on another aunt by the aunt’s new husband. Some of Tamara’s story did involve this aunt but it still contained too much irrelevant story.
Now the inconsistencies in character development bothered me as well. Tamara was raised until the age of 12 by a strong-willed grandmother. So I saw a lot of parallels with Tamara and grandma’s handling of situations: fight first, talk later. But the girl’s aunts (who were raised by the same woman) were weak-willed and needy, giving in to abuse and being used by no good men. Tamara was smarter (street wiser) than all of them at only fourteen.
Also, I didn’t see Tamara as abused. She is definitely used by her biological mother as a housekeeper and babysitter. But everything she does or allows, especially with the males in her life is calculated and for a purpose. Tamara says several times that she is street smart, and that is definitely what she is. From beginning to end, Dysfunctional shows Tamara as always having the upper hand or planning to get the upper hand. She always has a plan. She trusts no-one and uses everyone. People who think they’re her friend are just her pawns. That’s something the book doesn’t show, how does Tamara get so many different people to do whatever she wants? Everywhere she goes she easily gets people to do things that involve felonies, and she gets away with everything unscathed. I think Tamara could’ve easily gotten caught in several situations but this is fiction, so she doesn’t. Tamara is not a very likeable character. She’s mean, unfeeling and disrespectful, so I don’t know how she gets her loyal minions. But she and the book have entertaining drama for sure. The only thing that kept me reading was the promise of her next plan.
Toward the end Tamara is at her best at being bad. It reads like a soap opera drama at this part. It becomes less “hood” (for lack of a better word) and more “beverly hills” dysfunctional. Some parts were predictable, some parts shocking, some parts implausible. I don’t read a lot of urban lit. I picked this up for a change of pace. I would recommend this book for those who like non-stop drama and purely ignorant folks causing trouble for no reason, because there is a lot of it in this book.